If you have been searching united.com for award space lately, you may noticed something that was once as elusive as a four-leaf-clover: SWISS business class space. Be careful, though, before you transfer points over — some of the space is phantom.
The Worst Nightmare: Chase Transfer but No Ticket
United no longer allows award holds in its MileagePlus program. That means you need to have the points in your account prior to booking. Many of you have not so many United points but many Chase Ultimate Rewards points, a flexible currency that transfers into United.
Imagine the horror: you see four seats in SWISS business from San Francisco to Zurich for your family and move over 280K Chase points. You click through to book, enter your details, input credit card info, then click confirm. An error message appears. You call United and are told the SWISS space is phantom and there are no other options. Your flexible points are now orphaned in United.
How to Tell if SWISS Space is Phantom
I will note here that not all the SWISS space is phantom. SWISS is indeed releasing a lot more award space than before from markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles that traditionally never saw any premium award space. I’ve booked dozens of tickets this month for Award Expert clients on SWISS from the West Coast that have ticketed without issue. But there is still a lot of phantom space showing up.
Use the Aeroplan award search tool to verify if the SWISS space is actually bookable. If it shows up on Aeroplan, it means you can book it on United (in my experience). If it does not show up on Aeroplan, you likely cannot book it on United. ExpertFlyer tracks SWISS award space, but is of no use here because that pulls inventory available to Miles & More members, not Star Alliance partners like United.
You can also call United and agents will confirm whether they see the SWISS space in their system.
Unlike space with Ethiopian Airlines or EgyptAir that will error out early in the booking process, you will not know if SWISS space is phantom until the very end. If you get a dreaded error message or instructions to call United, chances are your space will not confirm.
Notice I am prefacing everything with “chances are” and “unlikely” instead of “will not” and “impossible”. The odd thing is that there have been a couple instances in which space has not showed up on Aeroplan but has still been bookable on United. Still, I would never take that chance.
SWISS business space has always been easier to secure from Montreal, Boston, and Miami in North America. Space now showing from Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York is great news, but be careful. Before you make any irreversible transfers, ensure that the space you want to book is actually there.